Piotr Plawner / Gerardo Vila / Philippe Bach / Bern Chamber Orchestra

Philip Glass: Violin Concerto No. 2 'American Four Seasons'; Violin Sonata

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Perhaps even Philip Glass has been surprised by the continuing international popularity of his minimalist style, more than half a century after it first appeared. Here one finds an elegant recording of a pair of violin works of the 2000s decade, without an American musician in sight, and it's as good a place as any to begin to evaluate and enjoy this composer's durable appeal. One key seems to be that Glass's characteristic arpeggio texture is a more malleable thing that was first supposed. By inflecting it slightly, Glass is able to create music that is characteristically his own, yet evokes and draws on the musical past. The Violin Concerto No. 2 ("The American Four Seasons") is a splendid example. It's very much Glass (for instance, he doesn't specify which movement goes with which season), but a few tweaks to the basic Glass sound are enough to put the listeners unmistakably in mind of Vivaldi. Glass also adds interludes that he calls "Songs," although they are actually solo pieces for the violin. There are few other works where he creates this kind of contrast, and the effect is bewitching in the hands of violinist Piotr Plawner, who has a, well, glassy sound that fits the music beautifully, and the Berner Kammerorchester under Philippe Bach. The Sonata for violin and piano, a more modest work, effectively turns the arpeggio texture toward the spirit of Brahms in a similar way. Fine sound from the Yehudi Menuhin Forum in Bern completes one of the more satisfying Glass releases of music from the later part of his life, rivaling those on his Orange Mountain Music label.

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